First Look

NASA reminds the world, it's not always wise to believe the Internet

NASA scientist issued a rare public service announcement on Wednesday, assuring Earthlings that they will, in fact, still have a planet next month.

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    A meteorite contrail streaks across the sky over the Ural Mountains' city of Chelyabinsk, about 930 miles east of Moscow, Russia, Feb. 15, 2013.
    Yekaterina Pustynnikova/AP
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NASA wants the world to know that there are currently no asteroids capable of smashing the planet to smithereens heading for Earth.

It may seem like a non-sequitur of epic proportions, but rumors of impending doom wrought by falling celestial objects have managed to thrive throughout much – if not all – of human history.

In 2011, foreboding rumors about the "doomsday" comet Elenin circulated on the Internet, even though the space rock had only started to break into a stream of debris that didn’t pose any danger to our planet.

And in January, NASA assured worried readers that the asteroids 2004 BL86 and 2014 YB35 would pass the Earth at far distances after users made fictitious claims of near-Earth trajectories.

Old rumors of an asteroid approaching Earth sometime between Sept. 15 and 28, 2015 resurfaced online this week, and again, NASA says: there’s nothing to worry about.

"There is no scientific basis – not one shred of evidence – that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates," said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a group of astronomers and scientists monitoring the sky for any space objects.

The rumors seem to trace back to a self-proclaimed prophet, Efrain Rodriguez. He said he sent a letter to NASA on Nov. 12, 2010, titled “Letter to the Space Agency… meteor heading toward Puerto Rico,” according to Veterans Today.

Mr. Rodriguez received a message from God, he claimed, that an asteroid would “soon be seen in the alarm systems of NASA.” It would head towards Puerto Rico and trigger an earthquake and tsunami that would devastate the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the US and Mexico, as well as Central and South America. He urged NASA to act on his claims and issue an alert to evacuate those in vulnerable areas.

Yet in recent statements made on his asteroid warning Facebook page, Mr. Rodriguez says his earlier remarks aren’t related to the latest conspiracy theory. Still, he stresses, writing in caps lock, “Our view is that we must be ready at all times, not for a specific date, sign, time frame, or calculation. The Bible instructs us to be watchful at all, we repeat, at all times.” 

But Mr. Chados assures that his group at NASA has been watchful. "If there were any object large enough to do that type of destruction in September, we would have seen something of it by now," he said.

"Again, there is no existing evidence that an asteroid or any other celestial object is on a trajectory that will impact Earth," Chados adds. "In fact, not a single one of the known objects has any credible chance of hitting our planet over the next century."

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